Charter school students prevail in Pennsylvania

January 26, 2016 | By WENCONG FA

Pacific Legal Foundation litigates for liberty from coast to coast. That’s how this Sacramento-based nonprofit was able to preserve school choice for charter school students in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

As our readers may recall, Lehigh Valley Dual Language Charter School wanted to open up a second location in order to accommodate growing demand. But it was prevented from doing so by the Bethlehem Area School District, which placed the interests of traditional public schools over the education of Pennsylvania students.

After the Commonwealth Court (a mid-level appellate court in Pennsylvania) ruled in favor of the charter school, the school district appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The school district argued that the Pennsylvania Charter School Law, which allows charter schools to operate out of “any suitable location,” forbids charter schools from operating out of multiple locations.

But the school district’s argument is wrong because common principles of statutory interpretation dictates that the singular includes the plural. PLF’s amicus brief in the case points out that just as “be prepared for class” doesn’t prevent students from being prepared for multiple classes, a law allowing charter schools to operate out of “any suitable location” doesn’t prevent successful charter schools from operating out of multiple locations.

The school district ultimately allowed the charter school to enroll more students at its current location, obviating the need for the school to add a second site. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court then dismissed the case as moot.

The dismissal is a positive development. It preserves a favorable Commonwealth Court decision that allows successful charter schools to open a second location, and it adds to the list of PLF school choice victories all around the country, in states like California, North Carolina, and beyond.